How They'd Collect Congestion Pricing Fees
August 29th, 2007

Streetsblog has a rendering up and a link to the city’s Request for Expression of Interest. The Streetsblog article shows the system IBM created for Stockholm, which features a rather prominent (and ominous) 7-11 kiosk–an odd bit of advertising as it is the only brand visible in IBM’s nifty interactive piece about how it all works. Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 29, 2007, 3:28 pm
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Who Says Miller was Immature? Not WikiPedia - Anymore
August 29th, 2007

In other techiness, Boulden at Daily Gotham has some fun with a new program called wikiscanner, which allows you to track changes to Wikipedia entries by organization or location. He finds some interesting changes coming from City Council computers to the Yvette Clark entry, as well as to Gifford Miller’s.

By on August 29, 2007, 8:50 am
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All Hail Google
August 29th, 2007

Will James, who makes digital maps for his blog, onNYTurf, is attempting to make a new transit map that would include the operating times for subways. With it, readers could map out a trip on the subway that would include the time it would take to get from point A, to point B. But he cannot get any of the transit agencies he has contacted to give him the data. He has sent Freedom of Information Requests to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as well as to the relevant agencies within it, such as New York City Transit, but is not getting much help.

While he has gotten some data from Long Island Bus and Metro-North, the transportation authority has told him that what he is looking for doesn’t even exist in the form he seeks. (While it is available as a PDF, that format is a “nightmare to cull data from,” he writes.) And the city’s transit agency has not even responded for over two months, well beyond the statutory deadline that gives agencies 20 days to respond to a request.

What makes this even more questionable is that Google is making a similar map, and will require the same data James is seeking, he says. If Google is going to receive the schedule data, it should be released to the public as well, James argues.

“After all we all pay for it with taxes and fares.”

By on August 29, 2007, 8:27 am
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MTA Must Keep Riders Informed, Cellphones Ban
August 13th, 2007

Last weeks torrential rains closed much of the subway system and forced many straphangers to find alternatives to get to their destination. Now, argues the Times editorial, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority need to “work overtime to regain the publics confidence in mass transit. ”

Of all the indignities suffered last week, among the worst was feeling that no one cared enough to keep riders informed.

The Posts editorial praises Mayor Bloomberg for standing up to the city councils bill that took aim at the ban on cellphones in public schools.

Not only are phones a serious classroom disruption, the Editorial writes, but they’ve also been used to cheat on tests, bully, deal drugs and coordinate gang activity.

By on August 13, 2007, 11:56 am
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Blogging the Blast
July 20th, 2007

The New York Times’ blog City Room has a first person account of the steam pipe explosion written by Kieran Beer, the man helping the bleeding woman in the photo that has become the iconic image of the event. Beer, the editor-in-chief of Fortent Inform, a news and legal data service for financial institutions, writes: I look pretty distressed in the photo. I was, but mostly about the photo being taken. I understood the photographer was doing his job, but I really didnt want be part of the story.

City Room also has its own take on the digital coverage, noting that people used their own blogs, YouTube, and Flickr to tell their personal stories, but that many for-profit web logs were not on top of the event.

By on July 20, 2007, 7:05 am
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Steam City
July 19th, 2007

The citys steam system is unknown to most New Yorkers until an event like yesterday evenings dramatic and dangerous explosion in Midtown. But some 30 billion pounds of steam flow beneath Manhattan streets every year, heating and cooling some of the citys best-known buildings. For more on New Yorks steam system, see Gotham Gazettes Steam.

The rupture in the 83-year-old steam pipe and the resulting, death, injuries and destruction focuses attention once again on the citys aging infrastructure. Some of the equipment whose failure may have contributed to last summers blackout in Queens was more than 70 years old; a fire in a subway signal room in 2005 dramatized problems with the Metropolitan Transit Authoritys antiquated equipment. For more on the problems facing New Yorks old electric, power, water, sewer and transit systems, see Gotham Gazettes The Aging City.

By on July 19, 2007, 11:27 am
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Brooklyn, the Bloggiest Blog Belt in the Blogosphere
May 11th, 2007

Clinton Hill, Brooklyn tops the list of America’s Top 10 Bloggiest Neighborhoods, according a rather unscientific survey on the blog And yesterday, the Borough of Kings hosted the second annual Brooklyn Blogfest, an off-line meeting of dozens of area bloggers.

Today, The New York Times’ blog Empire Zone features an extensive entry on the blogfest, complete with a helpful guide to various Brooklyn web logs.

By on May 11, 2007, 11:36 am
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The Greening of the Workplace?
May 1st, 2007

As today’s Gotham Gazette points out, it is widely accepted that so-called green building techniques — energy efficient lights and appliances, white roofs, better ventilation and more — can save oil and water. But now some proponents say that environmentally friendly office buildings can improve worker productivity — and the data, and common sense, back them up.

“Researchers and others have projected that tens of billions of dollars could be saved annually from reduced absenteeism and improved employee performance if indoor environments were improved,” the National Academy of Science noted in a 2005 report.

After all, it is no surprise that workers perform better in a well-lit, airy space than in a basement office with dirty walls and old-fashioned buzzing fluorescent lights, such as the one depicted in the film Joe Versus the Volcano. “I think its safe to say that good illumination, day light, and fresh air theyre no-brainers,” in terms of increasing productivity, “especially in schools,” said Nancy Anderson of the Sallan Foundation, which promotes useful ideas about greener cities.

One developer touting the benefits of an environmentally friendly workplace is Douglas Durst, who is building the $1 billion Bank of America building that has been called the greenest office tower in the world. At a recent conference on green buildings, he noted that, while a firm only spends 10 percent of its expenditures on energy, it spends 60 to 70 percent on its workers. Estimating that an improved office environment could boost productivity by 10 to 15 percent, Durst said, “We think this is where the real savings come from.”

By on May 1, 2007, 9:55 am
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Our Money Overseas
April 9th, 2007

Comptroller William Thompson wants to make the city’s money talk. He filed shareholder resolutions on behalf of the New York City Pension Funds with Google and Yahoo! calling on the internet giants to create a set of standards when they “conduct business with authoritarian governments.”

The proposal said the technology companies should declare that they resist “pro-active” censorship and that they not store data that could identify individuals in countries where political speech can be illegal.

But apparently, Google’s board of directors were not all that fond of the idea. MarketWatch reported last week that the company voted down the proposal.

An example of the perils of companies like this operating in repressive governments played out recently. Yahoo! reportedly gave information to Chinese authorities that led to a ten year prison sentence for a journalist. The jounalist, Shi Tao, had publicized a memo he received from the government regarding his coverage of the 15th anniversary of Tiananmen Square.

The city’s pension funds hold $110.5 million of shares in Yahoo! and $276.2 million in Google.

By on April 9, 2007, 4:35 pm
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Does an $80 Million Computer Adding Up?
March 7th, 2007

Teachers union president Randi Weingarten does not like the Department of Educations plan to buy an $80 million computer database from IBM to keep track of how the citys schools and students are performing. And if Weingarten does not like something, the odds are that the New York Post will. No wonder Weingarten is so exercised. Accountability is not exactly her thing,” the paper says in an editorial today, continuing ARIS will make an ideal complement to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein’s broader plan to give principals greater autonomy in setting curriculum and running their schools – so long as the schools that those principals run meet student-performance standards. Nearly 15 years after the NYPD revolutionized crime fighting with CompStat, the country’s largest school system is introducing a similar approach to assessing student and school achievement.”

But others question whether the $80 million computer system, called ARIS, is really the best use of funds for a system still strapped for money.

It does seem extravagant to invest in an $80 million computer system when many teachers must buy supplies with their own money, but we suppose that’s how the Bloomberg-Klein Department of Education rolls, wrote Gothamist.

Stroller Derby agrees: The money would be better served increasing teacher salaries or building new schools to avoid overcrowding. Heck, this is a school system where … creative classes (like art & music) continue to be dropped from the curriculum! And the teacher who blogs in Pissed Off complains that, while the city has $80 million to spend with IBM, My kids don’t even have a classroom with a door that closes. At least if the room gets too hot, we can enjoy the natural air conditioning. It’s great having that fresh air on a morning with temperatures near zero degrees.”

Writing in NYC Public School Parents, Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters picks up on the mayors comment that the computer system is worth it because “Every child in this city deserves a quality education and we will spare no expense.” Despite such rhetoric, Haimson writes, the mayor does not spend money on smaller classes, uncrowded schools, experienced teachers, arts programs or the joy of learning for its own sake even though his own kids (and Klein’s) attended private schools that provided all of the above and more. No, for the public schools, where the children of all those other people go, a quality education means a super-computer to crunch their test scores — and their souls.

By on March 7, 2007, 9:00 am
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NYC Bloggers, WNBC, And "Link Love"
February 1st, 2007

WNBC held an NYC Blogger Summit last night, attempting an erasing of the division between the broadcaster and the blogger.

The event brought together around 100 bloggers of all stripes from political bloggers (Urban Elephants, NYPress) to Brooklyn bloggers (Gowanus Lounge, OnlyTheBlogKnowsBrooklyn) to a blogger offering material about pop culture and his cat.
Our industry is changing, and you are a huge part of that, said Erin Monteiro, who will act as WNBCs new liaison between the blogosphere and the network. Bloggers have expanded the media universe.

While the newsroom at WNBC keeps tabs on a handful of blogs to stay current with breaking news and opinions, they now want to make this relationship more formal. Much of the event was geared towards encouraging bloggers to offer stories to WNBC. If they are used for broadcast, credit would be awarded on air, as well as in other ways – such as some link-love on the WNBC Web site.

But some of the bloggers were skeptical. The major blogs already do that. Why should we look to you? said the blogger known as Fish Bowl.

In response, Sree Sreenivasan, WNBC’s technology reporter and the events moderator, expressed hope that WNBC will be added to that list. (Sreenivasan, who is also the dean of students at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism offers a page on WNBC that could be called Blogging 101)

And we have some of the older people, a new readership, added another NBC-er.

As an example of the importance of blogs in the newsgathering process, Phil OBrien, executive producer at WNBC, talked about looking to Gothamist to see if they had information on a recent gorilla ad campaign that caused a stir in Boston.

But it seems that WNBC has its work cut out for them: A survey they distributed in anticipation of the event showed that none of those surveyed found local television Web sites helpful for their blogs, and only three percent considered local television helpful.

So how could local broadcasters improve on that? Lyceum noted that since Much of your content doesnt have much value ten minutes after it airs, you could release it, so that bloggers could utilize the content.

Were working on that, Monteiro said.

By on February 1, 2007, 8:48 am
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So, What Else Is Going On? (Cell Phones In the Subway)
November 9th, 2006

Two days after the election and the topics for discussion seem to be exhausted. The Democrats have taken the Senate and the House — we won’t have to wait through a recount. Plus, by now everyone has noted that Charlie Rangel is going to be really powerful, and made their predictions about whether or not Eliot Spitzer will be able to change Albany and when Hillary Clinton will announce that she’s running for president.

So it seems time to move on and talk about things that will really affect the lives of New Yorkers — like what would happen if people were able to use their cell phones on the subway. To read the Gothamist post about the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s plan to award a contract to a company that can make this possible, the result would be widespread violence.

One reader worries that wiring the stations will make it easier for terrorists to blow up the city using cell phone triggered bombs, but this isn’t the kind of mayhem most people consider likely. One commenter quotes the Onion: “If they lift the ban on cell-phone use, they better lift the ban on passengers beating the s— out of each other, too.” The next one threatens to “kill about a thousand people during my commute the first day this goes into effect.”

Gothamist itself, however, doesn’t see any of this happening too soon. This is, after all, a plan being carried out by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority:

“We bet by the time the MTA is ready to award the job, cellphones will be passe and people will communicate via ESP.”

By on November 9, 2006, 4:32 pm
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Can We Say It Aint So? And Other Questions About Brian McLaughlin's Alleged Corruption
October 19th, 2006

Accompanying the shock and amazement over the alleged corruption of Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin (The Queens King of Corruption? ) are a lot of questions:

Whenever we read a story like this indictment, we ask ourselves several questions, Henry Stern writes in NYCivic. How many more people like this are there with important jobs in labor, business, law or politics that just have not yet been uncovered for the thieves they are?…[T]he variety of illegal acts committed here was so wide that many people must have known of them, and why didn’t anybody speak up about them? If someone did drop a dime, how long had the crimes gone on before whosoever they may be came to the authorities?

The Chalkboard, a blog of the New York Charter Schools Association, has a post that asks Was McLaughlin Framed? written by Joe W: I have trouble believing that someone who sends out little league fundraising letters with the tag A child in sports stays out of the courts, could then turn around and (allegedly) use that money to pay for the rent on his Albany apartment. Or that Assemblyman and labor big shot Brian McLaughlin, the face of the working men and women of New York, would use union dues money and kickbacks from contractors (again, allegedly) to pay for his Long Island mansion, country club initiation fees, his wife’s $80,000 Mercedes, his kids’ wedding rehearsal dinner, and lavish gifts for three women. Forcing union members to skim the profits (allegedly) off scrap metal sales and sending them to McLaughlin? Preposterous.

Blogger Forlorn Apple asked whether Brian McLaughlins indictment would mean that the Assembly seat he is giving up could become a hot contest. But this is not going to happen. Why? The Republican candidate, Morshed Alam, is a Democrat, founder for example of the New Americans Democratic Club. This is a shame since the Republican party in NY has a great story to tell on taxes, education, housing, security, and especially government reform in Albany.

Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers McLaughlin used to be an electrician — has an interesting and lively message board:
We the members of local 3 demand an explanation of some of the Brian McClaughlin affair, one electrician writes. How did he allegedly receive a bribe and allow a Staten Island street lighting contract to be done with non union labor? I am sure if this is true there must be others involved in this

It doesn’t even matter if he wins in court; the perception is what counts, another writes. “Everyone in the local has egg and a lot more all over their faces.

Why would we….the membership have egg on our faces? a third replies. We are the victims here not the co-conspirators.

By on October 19, 2006, 4:44 pm
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Cell Phone Outlaws
September 15th, 2006

Newly released figures from the Mayors Management Report show that there were 159, 431 arrests during the fiscal year ending in June for talking on cell phones while driving an increase of 19 percent from the year before (and almost 300 percent from three years ago). But what the report does not reveal is an apparent hotbed of cell phone criminality in the metropolitan area — McKee High School on Staten Island. That, anyway, must be the reason why McKee Principal Linda Waite sent a letter to students’ homes warning them that their cell phones (and iPods and CD players) would be confiscated if they brought them to school and would not be returned until parent conferences more than six weeks away! Ban cell phones in the classroom, by all means, says an editorial in the Staten Island Advance entitled Heavy-handed On Cell Phones, but students should be allowed to carry them to and from school and they shouldnt have to wait six weeks to get them back. Like it or not, students, as well as lots of other people, use cell phones to communicate, including with their parents. They’re a necessary evil

By on September 15, 2006, 7:40 am
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Con Edison's Inaccurate Estimates
August 1st, 2006

An editorial in the New York Post comments on the City Council hearing yesterday into last months blackout in Queens City Council, and especially the testy exchange between the council members and Con Ed head Kevin Burke over the utilitys initial inaccurate estimates of the scope of the problem. The Post finds it downright scary to think that Con Ed can’t tell which and how many of its customers are without power in an era of GPS and computers and cell phones and the Internet, it truly is hard to believe that the company can’t better monitor its system.”

By on August 1, 2006, 6:37 am
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Investigate The Blackout
July 31st, 2006

An editorial in the Daily News calls for a full and independent investigation of the blackout, dismissing the reports that Con Ed is scheduled to give Mayor Michael Bloomberg later this week and that the state regulators at the Public Service Commission will be preparing over the next few months. The Public Service Commission should have been leaning on Con Ed to make sure it was keeping its infrastructure in tip-top condition and otherwise had its act together. Since it wasnt, the Daily News charges, they’re the wrong people to lead the much-needed investigation of Con Ed’s screwups.

By on July 31, 2006, 6:09 am
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How To Keep The Lights On
July 31st, 2006

The New York Times asked eight experts to write essays advising Con Ed on what can be done to prevent future blackouts.

Two suggest decreasing customer demand. Mike Gordon of ConsumerPowerline recommends giving financial incentives to large energy consumers for curtailing electricity use in peak periods. Amory B. Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute says there should be a decrease of customer usage, in particular by increasing the efficient use of power in buildings and equipment (“especially air-conditioners”) ; he also suggests increasing clean, local micropower plants

Energy consultant George C. Loehr believes that the electric power supply should be re-regulated; similarly, Assemblymember Catherine Nolan writes that we must restore adequate oversight of utilities.

Assemblymember Michael Gianaris believes that Con Edison should be held more accountable for its action (or inaction): The recent debacle in Queens, the death by electrocution of Jodie Lane in 2004 and the 1999 blackout in Washington Heights all have one thing in common: in none of these instances did Con Ed and its executives face serious consequences for their failings.

Gianaris believes fines should be levied, and the amount of cash reimbursement that Con Ed gives to affected customers should be increased with Con Ed legally prohibited from passing on the cost of these expenses to the public through rate increases.

Peter Fox-Penner of the Brattle Group proposes redesigning the entire United States power grid to deal with the increasingly extreme weather, perhaps the early effects of global climate change, that he says was the real cause of the power failure in Queens.

Three of the experts Nolan, engineering professor Anjan Bose and Nicole Gelinas of City Journal all focus on upgrading the aging equipment.

For more about the problem of the citys aging infrastructure not just its electrical system, but also the subway and the sewer see this weeks Issue of the Week, The Aging City.

By on July 31, 2006, 5:19 am
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Now That The Lights Are On
July 26th, 2006

The blackout may be over – but not the criticism of Con Ed or of Mayor Michael Bloomberg for defending the utility.

In its editorial today the Times is not impressed that Con Ed and its chief executive Kevin Burke worked to restore power: Thats their job. But did the utility do enough to avert the blackout? What about its fuzzy lowball math that grossly underestimated the problem at the beginning of the crisis? Through all this, the paper says, the mayors praise for Burke and Con Ed has been out of sync with the mood in western Queens.

No surprise there, writes Times reader Joseph Hirsch in a letter to the editor, who says Bloombergs continued defense of Burke reveals his insensitivity to working and middle-class people. When the transit workers went on strike last year, the mayor was not shy about expressing his opinion about their illegal actions. But when corporate executives are derelict, Mr. Bloomberg not only does not remain neutral, but he also extols them.

Robert Laird agrees. Laird was the deputy press secretary to John Lindsay when the then-mayor came under attack for not clearing Queens streets after a 1969 snowstorm. Repeatedly defending Con Ed’s conduct before all the facts are in,” Laird writes, “is not only the sign of a political tin ear, but the mark of an instinctively pro-management man.” But Laird writes in the News that Bloomberg still sits on a reservoir of goodwill.

What can the mayor and Con Ed due to fix things? In an editorial, the News notes that when Con Ed became aware of the problems in Queens last week it and the city should have issued urgent warnings to cut energy use. Noting that similar blackouts are likely to occur again, the paper says the city should establish ways to cut back before the lights go out.

But a Times reader has a more drastic remedy. Burke, says
Lawrence Racies did what he is supposed to: run Con Ed for the benefit of its stockholders. The customers may suffer if Con Ed doesnt make needed improvements, but stockholders benefit from saving the money. And so, Racies says, The realistic solution is not Mr. Burkes removal, but the takeover of Con Ed by New York City.

By on July 26, 2006, 8:01 am
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The Anti-Politician Does It Again
July 25th, 2006

An editorial in the New York Post entitled No Thanks, Mr. Mayor criticizes Mayor Michael Bloomberg for thanking Con Ed head Kevin Burke for his efforts during the week-long blackout in Queens. This, the Post argues, fits a pattern of this mayor, who refuses to demand accountability from top officials, no matter how horrific their foul-ups citing as examples,
Administration for Childrens Services Commissioner John Mattingly after the death of Nixmary Browns death, Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall after the death of 11 passengers on the Staten Island ferry, and Rikers Island chaplain Umar Abdul-Jalil after his comments about terrorism at a conference last year.

By on July 25, 2006, 7:00 am
In category: Governing,Tech,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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Cell Phones on Hold
June 29th, 2006

The school year has come to a close but not before another volley in this years hot controversy: whether to allow students to bring their cell phones to school. The Association of New York City Education Councils, which opposes the Department of Educations cell phone ban, announced the winners of a contest inviting students to come up with their plan to both let the kids keep their cell phones and address the administrations concerns about improper use of the devices in school. All the winners (and the lions share of entries) were from Stuyvesant High School. While Alex Newman proposed a variety of penalties if a student uses the phone in school and Abigail Schaeffer envisioned a special storage facility for the phones, Nathan Bixler won the Out of the Box award for an elaborate scheme he likened to a Faraday Cage that would render the phones useless inside schools buildings.

Tune in in September to see if the administration adopts any of these schemes, if it continues to enforce the ban or if, as some predict, the whole thing fades quietly away.

By on June 29, 2006, 5:28 pm
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